Things to Do in Brooklyn — Coney Island to the Brooklyn Bridge

When most people think of New York City, images of the Manhattan skyline come to mind.

 

But there are so many things to do in Brooklyn that it’s worth a visit across the East River to spend some time there. From outdoor spaces and amusement parks to markets and museums, Brooklyn is a top-notch tourist destination.

things to do in Brooklyn
Image via Flickr by thomasbonte

Consider booking budget-friendly hotels in the trendy Columbia Street Waterfront District for your stay in Brooklyn. The up-and-coming neighborhood is known for its vintage shops, unique boutiques, live poultry markets, hip restaurants, and old industrial buildings that have been converted into residential living spaces. The location is ideal for getting around Brooklyn, and being near the waterfront and iconic Brooklyn Bridge makes it convenient for anyone wanting to spend some time in Manhattan, too.

Outdoor Spaces
things to do in Brooklyn
Image via Flickr by Teri Tynes

If you’re looking to spend time outdoors, Prospect Park is the place to be. Ideal for everything from bird-watching to skating and nature programs, the park is open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily. In addition, you can check out Prospect Park Zoo or catch the summer concert series at the Prospect Park Bandinelli.

Another great place to take in Brooklyn’s natural beauty is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Founded more than 100 years ago, the public garden boasts a number of flower displays, as well as educational programs and research projects about regional plants.

Romance is on the menu at Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which has been featured in many major motion pictures, such as “Moonstruck” and “Annie Hall.” With unparalleled views of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, it’s the perfect place to pop the question. Also be sure to check out Brooklyn Bridge Park. This lush green space spans more across 85 acres and is known for its impressive views of the Manhattan skyline.

Arts and Culture
things to do in brooklyn
Image via Flickr by danimp

Just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, you’ll find the Brooklyn Museum. Home to more than 1 million pieces of art, it’s one of the most important cultural centers in the United States. Other popular Brooklyn-based museums include the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, the Toy Museum of NY, and the Waterfront Museum.

At BLDG 92, Brooklyn Navy Yard Center, celebrate New York’s rich naval history. Once one of the most active military shipbuilding facilities in the nation, it’s a popular museum today. Visit the Brooklyn Historical Society for a look at the borough’s 400-year history. This urban history center is home to a museum, exhibitions, educational programs, and more.

Shakespeare buffs will want to visit Theatre for a New Audience. Over the past 30 years, the award-winning theater company has produced more than 60 classic and contemporary plays, including nearly 30 Shakespeare plays.

Food, Shopping, and Entertainment
things to do in brooklyn
Image via Flickr by Sarah_Ackerman

Since its launch in 2008, Brooklyn Flea has become a top area attraction. Each weekend, hundreds of vendors and local artisans gather to sell their wares. Touted as one of the best flea markets in the world, it’s also known for its impressive food scene. Each weekend, as many as 30,000 people flock to Smorgasburg, the largest weekly outdoor food market in the United States.

A trip to Brooklyn wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Coney Island. This community in the southwestern part of the borough is best known for its beach and the Luna Park amusement park, which includes more than 50 rides and attractions. Coney Island is also home to the New York Aquarium, where you can get up close with a variety of marine animals.

If you’re planning a trip to New York City, You’ll find plenty of things to do in Brooklyn. With its plentiful green spaces, numerous museums, unique shopping experiences, and exciting entertainment, Brooklyn is a great place for a city break.

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Things to do in Brooklyn

Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center in New York: A Wanderlust Experience

There’s something dreamy about gliding across the ice with the Manhattan skyline as your backdrop.

 

Each year from Columbus Day weekend through April, an enormous ice rink pops up in the middle of the infamous Rockefeller Center complex between 47th and 50th Streets and 5th and 7th Avenues in Manhattan. This likely isn’t news to you—you’ve probably seen the annual Rockefeller Center Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony on TV at least once or twice in your lifetime. The ice rink typically features prominently as part of the production.

As a little girl, I would dream about lacing up a pair of skates and going for a whirl around the ice rink at Rockefeller Center. Finally, a few years ago, my dream came true. And it was worth the wait. If you’re one of the privileged travelers who will be spending some time in New York this holiday season, this wanderlust experience should be high on your list of things to do.

rockefeller

Here are a few things you need to know about ice skating at Rockefeller Center in New York City.



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1. Be Prepared to Wait

Believe it or not, you’re not the only visitor to New York who wants to skate at Rockefeller. Shocking, I know. Entry to the rink is on a first come, first serve basis. And it’s almost inevitable that there will be a line up to get into the rink. Expect especially long lines over the holidays, which run from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. I was there on January 1, and the line was at least a full city block long when I arrived. But it moved fairly quickly—we only had to wait about 45 minutes.

2. It’ll Cost You

You’ll have to fork out the big bucks for this premium experience. Admission is $25 per adult for a 90-minute session. But that’s not all, unless you managed to pack a pair of skates in your suitcase, you’ll need to rent them. That’ll set you back another $12. But you’re in New York and on vacation, so who cares about the cost. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, after all.

3. Get the VIP Experience

Truth be told, I didn’t know mere mortals like myself could actually go skating at Rockefeller Center. I thought it was only open to the elite. It wasn’t until my friend and I were on our flight to New York that I learned otherwise. Had I known in advance, I would have done more research and learned about the slew of VIP experiences available at the ice rink. Not only do you get to reserve your skating session in advance so you can skip the line, you can pair it with some sort of awesome extra, like breakfast with Santa, afternoon tea, or even an engagement celebration.

4. It’s Magical

I come from a cold part of the country and grew up on a pair of skates. But no rink I’ve ever skated on felt quite as special as the one at Rockefeller Center. When I put my first blade down on the ice, it was like I stepped out of reality and into another dimension.

Sure, it was crowded and cold, but all of that melted away as I looked up at the Manhattan skyline enveloping the ice like a cashmere sweater. My bff and I have been friends a long time—forever, in fact—and this was by far one of the most special experiences we’ve ever shared…and we’ve done a lot of cool things over the years. We laughed so hard we nearly cried as we stumbled awkwardly around the rink for our first few laps. We enjoyed every second of our 90-minute session, soaking in the atmosphere of that majestic place at the most magical time of year.

If you’re traveling to New York, take a few hours out of your day to enjoy this special seasonal experience. I promise you won’t regret it. Be sure to share your pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #wanderlustwayfarer.

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Rockefeller Center

 

9 Things You Need to Know About New Year’s Eve in New York City

So you want to spend New Year’s Eve in New York City?

 

It feels like 2016 went by in a flash, and with 2017 just around the corner, now is the perfect time to start planning your New Year’s Eve activities. Maybe you’re considering a trip to New York to ring in the New Year by watching the ball drop in Times Square. I had the good fortune to do just that a few years ago. And there is so much more to it than you can even imagine from watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.

I consider New Year’s Eve in New York City one of my top ten travel experiences. I LOVE everything about New York—the people, the food, the buildings, the smells…everything! So it was truly a dream come true to take in this time-honored tradition. But this post isn’t for the faint of heart.

If you are looking for a fairy tale about counting down to zero and singing Auld Lang Syne, you may want to skip to number 9. But if you want to hear the nitty gritty of what to actually expect and how to plan for the evening, here’s what you need to know before you make your way to Manhattan on December 31st.

New Year's Eve in New York City

1. Incredible Crowds

You have never been in a crowd like the one you will be in on New Year’s Eve in New York City. I don’t care if you’ve taken a train in India or waited in line to meet your favorite boy band—you’ve never seen anything like this. If you have even a hint of claustrophobia, this is not the event for you. The crowds are a vortex you get sucked into.

I arrived at Times Square around 7 p.m., and it was almost impossible to move. This is a time when there is strength in numbers. Latch onto your group and form a train to snake your way through the crowd. If there are only two or three of you, find another group headed in the same direction and let them know your plan. If you try to move one at a time, you’ll likely lose each other in the chaos. Hold on tight and forge ahead as a group. You’ll feel like you’re pushing against a tsunami, but baby steps and perseverance will get you there. Be patient and friendly. Getting mad at the guy next to you won’t get you anyplace but kicked out (see point 5 for more on that).

2. It’s Not Like on TV

You know how everyone is cheering and happy and they all have a bunch of blue Nivea swag? It’s not like that at all. Unless you are very near the heart of the action, you won’t see any balloons or get a party hat. There are no streamers or confetti. You won’t even hear the performers singing. You’ll just be standing outside in a huge crowd looking at the sky. And you’ll be doing it for hours.

3. Expect to Wait

If you want to be really near the stage where all the hot stars perform, you need to arrive well before the crack of dawn to claim your space. Keep in mind that once you’re in place, you can’t leave or you risk losing you spot. Because security is high, you’re not allowed to bring in any bags, which means no food or drinks. That may be a blessing in disguise because sneaking out to use the facilities is not an easy task. Pretty much, once you’ve claimed your stake, don’t expect to do much else. You’re there for the next 18 hours or so.

4. Buy an Event Ticket

This should maybe be number one…If you don’t want to sit outside for hours waiting for a glimpse of the ball dropping at midnight, buy a ticket to a nearby event. Even if you don’t want to go to an event, purchase a ticket to something…anything. Why is this so important? Well, if you have tickets to a specific event, the authorities will help you get there…if you can get to the authorities (see point 1). If you get close enough to someone with the power to move a barrier so you can get to your venue, wave your tickets in the air. They are watching for you and will hail you over.

But getting through the crowds faster is just one of three advantages to having an event ticket. The second is that you are pretty much guaranteed to see the ball drop. If you are simply hoping to get someplace within view, so are millions of others. And there is only so much space on the streets of New York. I suspect thousands of the people I passed on the street never made it within five blocks of a place where they could see the ball. They waded through the massive crowds and stood on the street for hours for nothing.

The third advantage is that you only have to wait outside for two hours or so instead of 12 or more. Simply step outside the venue at about 10 p.m. and claim a space on the sidewalk out front. Tuck in tight—don’t leave any space between yourself and the barrier or the rest of your party. Before you know it, someone will swoop in and steal your spot if you do. It happens in the blink of an eye.

You’re probably thinking a ticket to an event on New Year’s is out of your budget. I thought so, too, but I was really wrong. Sure, if you’re hoping for a glass of Cristal as the clock strikes twelve, you’re looking at dishing out the big bucks. But I got a ticket to the shindig at Madame Tussaud’s that was being hosted by a B-list celebrity for only $45. We spent a few hours guzzling free bevvies, touring the museum, and chowing down on snacks before snagging our spot outside. We missed the party inside, but that wasn’t why we were there anyway.

5. Expect a LOT of Security

It’s to be expected that security would be high at any packed event in New York, but you ain’t seen nothing like this. There will be cops, firefighters, and everything else you can think of everywhere you look. And they mean business. Don’t make any cracks about sketchy subjects. They won’t tolerate it, and you’ll be tossed out faster than you can count down to zero.

In our case, we got to know the cop manning the gate pretty well in the two hours we were standing outside. I’m not sure we ever actually spoke to him, but he definitely knew who we—and everyone around us—were. If we’d been in trouble, he’d have jumped into action. I never felt safer.

6. Be Prepared for Anything

You’re going to be standing on a hard cement sidewalk. It may be hot, or cold, or both. You likely won’t be able to sit down. You will be fenced in. People will push, shove, and try to take your space, even though you have been standing there for hours. I know you want to look good, but if you do yourself one favor that night, consider your shoes, coat, and other accessories carefully.

Comfort and style can be a hard balance but one you will definitely want to find. I wore low pumps with a three-inch, block heel rather than spiked stilettos. I also chose an off-the-rack sequined dress and didn’t care if it got torn in the crowd. I could also wear it with leggings instead of pantyhose to help keep in the warmth (though it ended up being the warmest New Year’s in 100 years). I popped a pair of gloves and earmuffs inside my clutch to add as the night wore on. I even managed to fit a wee umbrella inside just in case. If I’d been smart, I’d also have tossed in a pair of fold-up flats, but I managed…barely.

7. When It’s Over, It’s Really Over

Once the ball drops, there is nothing left to see or do. The streets clear out fast. We were staying in the Financial District, and even after fighting the subway crowds, we were back at our hotel well before 1 a.m. We even stopped to pick up some street pizza on the way “home.” So if you’re expecting a big party in the streets, don’t. Once the ball drops, the crowd will break…fast. People just want to get out. Remember, some of them may be very hangry from waiting there all day. Of course, if you did buy a ticket to an event, you can always go back inside.

8. Only Take What You Need

The crowds are so thick that you will have no idea if someone pulls off your Tiffany necklace or Cartier watch. People’s hands will be all over you—not necessarily because they want them to be, but more so because they have no where else to put them as you shove your way to your final destination. Only take the essentials. In my clutch, I had the gear I mentioned previously, as well as lipstick and a compact. I tucked a credit card on my body. That was it. I didn’t take a lick of cash or anything else. Just the bare necessities—I even took off my wedding ring and watch, two things I never leave home without.

9. It’s Magical

Now, forget all that other stuff I just said about cops and crowds and all that jazz. None of it matters once the countdown begins. When you’re standing on that street surrounded by strangers and your loved ones, it’s like the world stops spinning for those ten seconds. It’s surreal and wonderful and heart-warming and so many other adjectives that I can’t put into words.

I spent the night standing on a corner with my best friend of 30 years, and I can’t explain the warmth that washed over me when we hugged in the glow of nearly 3,000 Waterford crystals at the stroke of midnight. I’m the least emotional human on the planet, but even I got teary-eyed. I would do it all again in a heartbeat to reply those few minutes of my life.

If you still have questions about what to expect on New Year’s Eve in New York City, shoot me a line via comment on this post or on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group. I’d love to hear from you.

One Day in New York: Chelsea Market to Broadway

You’ve got just one day in New York, and you don’t want to squander it. But how can you possibly see all the Big Apple has to offer? This itinerary has a little bit of everything, from Tiffany to Times Square.

Morning

One Day in New York Morning

Start your day in New York with a bit of a lie-in. Relax—it’s city that never sleeps after all, so you’ve got plenty of time to see the sights. (This from the girl who never sleeps past 6 a.m.) As long as you’re up and at ‘em by 10 a.m., you can really pack in a lot of activity. But be prepared to spend the entire day and night on the go. Unless you’re staying someplace super central like the reasonably priced Row NYC, you may not make it back to your hotel to prep for your evening plans. Make sure your outfit can go from day to night just in case.

To make the most of your morning, head toward Chelsea Market in the Meatpacking District. Here, you’ll find plenty of ultra-cool eateries serving up delicious and hearty breakfast fare. Whether you have an appetite for a big bowl of porridge, eggs over easy, or a stack of pancakes, you’ll find something that will more than satisfy your every craving.

After you eat, spend some time walking through the market’s indie boutiques and upscale chain stores like my fave, Anthropologie. You can kill two or three hours checking out all of the unique offerings at Chelsea Market alone, but there is still plenty of the city left to see. And you do only have one day in New York.



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Mid-day

One Day in New York Afternoon

The next stop on the itinerary is Avenue of the Americas or there abouts. I recommend walking if you can. Simply head northeast on 9th Avenue and make a right onto the nearest street. Just a few blocks up, and you’ll reach your destination.

Here, you’ll find everything from major chain stores to two-bit pop ups and upscale boutiques. Be sure to turn down the side streets, too. I once found a little shop selling $20 shoes that looked like $200 Fluevogs. No, seriously—a woman at the airport insisted I take them off and show her my insole to prove they weren’t.

In this general area, you’ll find the flagship Tiffany and Co., Macy’s, Bryant Park, SoHo, Greenwich Village, Rockefeller Center, and so much more. Depending on how fast you can walk, you can take in a goodly amount of sights. You may have to double back to take them all in, but you’ll be having so much fun, you won’t even notice.

Despite your big breakfast, by now your stomach is probably growling. To save time, grab a bite from a street vendor. They’re a dime a dozen, and you can eat on the go. Not to mention it helps keep down your daily food costs. I like fresh roasted peanuts or a salted pretzel, which you can usually find on every street corner and will cost you just a few dollars. You can use your savings for a nice dinner later on.

While you’re meandering through the city streets, you’ll catch glimpses of some of the most infamous sites. The Chrysler, Empire State, and Flatiron Buildings are just a few examples. Take your time to look around. Don’t forget to turn your eyes to the sky to see some of the world’s tallest towers.

Evening

One day in New York Evening

When night falls, it’s time to head toward Times Square. Depending on which direction you walked on Avenue of the Americas, you may find yourself amid the flashing lights of this famous street or a fair jaunt away. Hop in a taxi if your feet could use a break.

For solo travelers, Times Square is just about the safest place you can be since you’re constantly surrounded by people. The shops here stay open late—so late, in fact, that I’ve never seen them close. Grab a bite to eat from one of the countless restaurants lining the main and side streets. A budget-friendly option with great atmosphere is John’s of Times Square. The made-to-order pizzas are cooked to perfection inside a wood-fired stove. After you’ve grabbed some grub, head over to the TKTS booth to pick up discounted tickets for a Broadway show. What good is having one day in New York if you don’t take in some of the world-class entertainment?

Late Night

Have a hankering for something sweet after the show? It’s a bit of a jaunt, but a trip to Serendipity 3 for a glass of its infamous frrrozen hot chocolate is well worth the cab fare. And because you’re still in the heart of Manhattan, the streets will be busy with people even at this late hour. This is great news since you’ll likely need to stand outside while waiting for a seat at this hot spot. From the outside, this cozy diner doesn’t look like much more than another New York boutique. Step inside, and you’re transported into an eclectic mix of kitsch and quirk. The full-service restaurant has been featured in a number of well-known movies and is notorious for its distinct decor, including Tiffany lampshades and white bistro tables. Trust me when I tell you, order one frrrozen hot chocolate for every two people in your group. You’ll still have plenty more than you can consume. And if you’re up for it, add a dash of peanut butter—after all, calories don’t count when you’re on vacation.

If you’re staying nearby, a walk back to your hotel may be in order to cap off your night. But at this late hour, there’s no shame in hailing a big yellow taxi cab to whisk you away.

I could create 10 different itineraries for one day in New York—and I probably will—but I started here because of all the days I’ve spent in this fine city, this was my favorite. Now, head on over to Facebook or Twitter and share your favorite way to spend one day in New York.

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